What is Mouse DPI?

edited January 2021 in Peripherals

By Eric Ravenscraft

If you’ve ever felt like it’s hard to aim in a first-person shooter or that your cursor can’t seem to find the right cell in Excel on the first try, you’ve probably run into a DPI problem. This setting on your mouse determines how sensitive your cursor is and, if you set it right, it can improve not just your gaming but your productivity as well.

What Does DPI Mean?

 DPI stands for “dots per inch” and measures how many steps your mouse reports to the computer per inch that you move your mouse. For instance, if you have your mouse sensitivity set to 200 DPI and move your mouse one inch, it will only move a little bit. Set the same mouse to 1200 DPI, and it will go much further with the same movement. (You might also see this referred to as CPI or “counts per inch” depending on the manufacturer.)

How to Change DPI Settings

 Every mouse has a limit on its maximum DPI sensitivity, but you can adjust your DPI using software or even with a physical button, known as an on-the-fly button, on some mice. If you are unsure whether your mouse has an on-the-fly button or are having difficulty locating it, check its product manual or manufacturer’s website. Having the ability to toggle between settings quickly can help in some contexts where you might want much higher sensitivity, but not as much in others.

How DPI Affects Your Games (and Work)

 The DPI settings you prefer will be highly subjective and depend on what you’re doing. For example, FPS players often use a low sensitivity to make it easier to aim. It’s harder to squeeze in a headshot when your sights fly across the screen with every breath. However, if you need to whip around and see directly behind you, a higher DPI might be more desirable. 

 Many games, like Overwatch, for example, allow you to set per-character DPI settings because what works for a sniper might not work as well for a tank. For games or apps that don’t provide this built-in, the software that comes with your mouse—such as Logitech’s G Hub or Razer’s Synapse software—will let you automatically switch DPI per app or manually switch with a shortcut or button.

 How to Pick a Good DPI

 Logitech’s G Hub software lets you choose multiple DPI settings and cycle between them with the press of a button.

 Depending on your needs, it’s important to experiment with what feels comfortable for you. For most games and applications, a 400-800 DPI is a good baseline to start with. However, you might find you prefer something higher. For example, I use two monitors on my work desktop. Therefore, I prefer a baseline 1200 DPI even for regular office work, simply because it makes it easier to move from one monitor to the other in a single motion.

 For games, it’s often a good idea to hop into a practice round or offline game and play around with controls to see what sensitivity feels best for you. In a first person game, try to set a sensitivity that allows you to accurately spin 180 degrees to face behind you without overshooting. You can also experiment with multiple DPI settings and cycle between them if your mouse has a dedicated DPI button.


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